Tuesday, September 20, 2011

C-Suite talk: agility starts with 2 questions

C-Suite Talk: an Infrics.com series about ideas that matter to executives

Individuals--consumers of technology--move through rapid change like dancers. New ideas, new products, short implementation times and perpetual beta? Not only do they make it look easy, as former Texas governor Ann Richards joked about Ginger Rogers, they do it “backwards and in high heels.”

Corporations--enterprises--move like hikers with a 90-pound packpack. Burdened by legacy technology, the sheer size of their businesses, and business practices laden with feature creep, the best answer they can give to technology is often “not now,” and sometimes, it’s just plain “no.”

Without seeking to make light of the very real challenges of running a business, don’t you sometimes sit alone in your office contemplating your own business, and wish you were more of a dancer and less of a plodder?  If there is one single element that stands between you and agility as far as business is concerned, it’s complexity.  

Complexity sneaks in like a thief, but because it’s stealthy, it works its way through your processes and technologies until it begins to seem more like the norm than an unwelcome intruder.  Reducing complexity is strategic, but it takes a solid tactical mindset to achieve. As you tackle complexity in your organization, try looking at it by asking these 2 questions:  
Is there a simpler way to do this?

If not, how can we manage the complexity so that it appears simple to those who use it?

Images from wikipedia.org

These are hardly revolutionary ideas. But the thought of seeing complexity through two different lenses is a powerful one that can be used in a lot of situations.  One can build on the other.  Can you simplify underlying processes as a means of abstracting a more complex one?  Can an abstracted complex process enable a simpler approach in another area? 

When you either reduce or abstract the complex, you service-enable it; the components of your technology and your business become building blocks. It is not realistic to think you can eliminate the complex, but it is a critical business success factor that you manage it.  

Complexity management is the business equivalent of laying aside the backpack, and walking on level ground instead of uphill all the time.  It is a core concept of the service oriented enterprise, and is a core tool for the C-Suite to manage enterprises well.

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